With just one draft pick in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft, New York City FC had to get the man they drove down to Baltimore for. Despite the suspense, they eventually got him.
By Jeff Weisinger
There’s suspense as seen on American Idol, and then there’s what happened in Baltimore on Thursday at the MLS SuperDraft.
But in the end, New York City FC got the guy they wanted, acquiring the top-overall pick Jack Harrison in a trade with the Chicago Fire.
NYCFC acquires MLS No. 1 overall pick Jack Harrison from Chicago in trade a few minutes after Harrison thanked Chicago for believing in him.
— Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) January 14, 2016
“He’s a modern winger,” new Head Coach Patrick Vieira said. “He can come inside, he can go on the line, he can score goals, and he’s really good in the 1-v-1 situations.
“He’s the type of modern winger that you like to have in the team. He’s young, but I’m sure he will have a massive part to play in our squad. He’s enthusiastic, he’s full of energy, and this is what we want.”
The day started with NYCFC holding on to the fourth overall pick, however the rumors were that they were looking to trade up, possibly all the way up to the number one pick to get Harrison, a player they originally wanted to place a homegrown claim on, but was denied the claim by MLS.
When NYCFC went on the clock, the Blues took the entire four minutes and announced that they traded the fourth pick to the Chicago Fire for allocation money and a player to be named later. The Fire originally drafted Harrison with the first overall pick, sparking the deal with New York City in the first round. After much delay, Harrison was eventually announced as that “player to be named later.”
Harrison, the youngest player in the draft at just 19, joins NYCFC after a stellar freshman season at Wake Forest University where he scored eight goals and tallied 11 assists. He became the only freshman to make any of the three All-American teams, was the Atlantic Coast Conference Offensive Player and Freshman of the Year along with a First Team All-ACC and ACC All-Freshman selections. He was also a semifinalist for the MAC Hermann Trophy and originally from Manchester United’s academy.
“We’re very excited,” Sporting Director Claudio Reyna mentioned. “Not only is he a player for the future, but we think he can contribute right away in an attacking position.”
— The Third Rail (@ThirdRailSC) January 14, 2016
He also spent time playing for Manhattan Soccer Club for the past three years, however he was with the club before their affiliation with NYCFC, making him ineligible for the club’s homegrown claim.
“It’s a great story, but more than anything we got a fantastic kid and an excellent player.”
“I’m really excited,” Harrison said about returning to New York City to play for NYCFC. “I’m looking forward to working with Patrick Vieira and working with some great players. It’s great to be back in Manhattan. I’m happy to be back in New York City, it’s been my second home since moving to the United States, so I’m really excited.”
Jack Harrison: MLS SuperDraft No. 1 pick. Only WAKE athlete taken No. 1 overall in other top N. American leagues: Tim Duncan, Spurs, 1997
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 14, 2016
With Harrison now aboard, NYCFC has themselves a very crowded midfield. Harrison joins a New York City midfield that already includes Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo, along with Kwadwo Poku, Tommy McNamara, Mix Diskerud, Mehdi Ballouchy, Connor Brandt and Andrew Jacobson. The last two on the list aren’t too much of a concern since both Brandt and Jacobson are defending mids.
Although Harrison was the apparent player that NYCFC was going to go to heaven-and-back to get, many were hoping that the Blues would address a defensive backline that gave up a league-worst 58 goals last year. NYCFC did acquire Ethan White to help bolster the backline, however the hope was that they would go after a guy like a Joshua Yaro or Brandon Stewart, two highly-touted collegiate defenders from Georgetown and Stanford, respectively.
But they still get a high-quality player in Harrison, whose speed and vision, especially at such a young age, was what made him the top prospect of the 2016 draft class.
If Vieira decides to go with a 4-2-3-1 formation, Harrison could see a lot of time on the wings of the attacking midfield opposite Diskerud with Lampard in the middle and captain David Villa as the lone striker. It gets more interesting if Vieira goes with a 4-3-3 formation that could put Harrison in the front with Lampard behind him.
There’s no question that Harrison will get his minutes. Last year’s first round pick Khiry Shelton was working his way into the Starting XI until a knee injury sidelined him for nearly the entire summer. His lone goal came in a 2-2 draw against the Chicago Fire.